Christmas is approaching along with the end of the school semester, which means that groups of talented young (and not-so-young) Tulsa musicians are presenting concerts.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, at 6 p.m., the Barthelmes Conservatory will hold its winter open concert at All Souls Unitarian Church, 30th Street & Peoria, just north of Tulsa's Brookside district. A select number of students in instrumental and vocal music will perform the pieces they've been perfecting all semester. Admission is free, and a reception will follow.
Friday, December 19, 2014, at 8:00 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their Holiday Concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The evening will include traditional Christmas carols and anthems and a special addition: John Rutter's choral setting of Kenneth Grahame's classic story, "The Reluctant Dragon." Admission is $10 for adults, free for students, and a reception will follow.
A favorite college Christmastime memory was hearing the MIT Brass Ensemble playing Christmas carols in the vast, acoustically live space of Lobby 7. If you can't get to Cambridge, there's something close to home that should be even better: Sunday, December 21, 2014, at 5:00 p.m., the Tulsa Symphony Brass and organist Casey Cantwell will perform a brass and organ concert of Christmas favorites at Trinity Episcopal Church, presented by Music at 501. Tickets are available at the door and online: $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.
After a few schismatic years, downtown Tulsa will once again have a parade with the word Christmas in the name.
The Tulsa Christmas Parade starts tonight, Saturday, December 13, 2014, at 6 p.m. The rectangular parade route will begin at 7th Street and Boston Avenue, traveling north to 3rd Street, west to Boulder Ave, south to 7th.
Downtown parking meters aren't enforced on Saturday evening, so pick your spot. You'll want to avoid the area between 7th, 10th, Boulder, and Cincinnati, which will be used for staging and disbanding the floats.
You might want to plan on coming early and staying late. Following the parade at 7:15, Winterfest at 3rd and Denver will have a fireworks display. There are shopping opportunities, too: Downtown retail is enjoying a small-business comeback, particularly on Boston Ave between 3rd and 7th, including Decopolis and The Vault between 6th and 7th, Elote and Mod's Crepes in the Philcade building, which is also home to a candy store and some small "pop-up" shops. In the Blue Dome District, you'll find Dwelling Spaces and Lyon's Indian Store / Tulsa Treasures, Boomtown Tees, along with the many dining opportunities in the district.
This parade is the culmination of a four-year effort to get Christmas back into the name of an 86-year-old Tulsa tradition.
In 2010, after the local electric utility dropped sponsorship for the parade, local business owners, including restaurateur Elliot Nelson, stepped up to present a parade downtown, calling it a Holiday Parade. The group's application for a permit to close the streets for the parade turned into a public debate over the decision not to call it a Christmas Parade.
(In fact, the name change had occurred the year before. PSO dropped Christmas from the name of the Parade of Lights in 2009, "to promote inclusiveness and promote the parade to all Tulsans even if they don't celebrate Christmas.")
Eddie Huff, an insurance agent and co-host for KFAQ's Pat Campbell Show, was one of those at the City Council meeting, and he spoke to the Council of his hope that next year, when a Tulsa Christmas Parade sought a permit, the City Council would grant it. Construction company owner Josh McFarland and insurance agent Mark Croucher had the same desire, and within a few days, Huff, McFarland, Croucher and other like-minded Tulsans were planning a Tulsa Christmas Parade for 2011.
The 2011 parade was held on Olympia Ave through the Tulsa Hills shopping center near 71st and U. S. 75 and drew a large number of both floats and spectators. The downtown Holiday Parade went on as well. While the Tulsa Christmas Parade organizers were pleased with the result, they were still hopeful that there would once again be a unified Christmas Parade downtown some year in the future.
In 2013, the Christmas Parade organizers were invited to consolidate with the downtown parade, and Josh McFarland joined the downtown parade's board. The resulting parade included Christmas in the name -- "The Downtown Parade of Lights: A Celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays" -- but the compromise was still too watered down for the other organizers of the Tulsa Christmas Parade. A poll in fall of 2013 showed that three-quarters of Tulsans wanted "Christmas" in the name of the parade.
In 2014, the long-time executive director of the parade stepped down, and McFarland stepped into the role. With a new board and new sponsorship, the downtown parade was once again dubbed the Tulsa Christmas Parade, and Huff joined the downtown effort, feeling that his aims had been accomplished. Croucher opted to continue a Christmas Parade at Tulsa Hills, which was held last Saturday night.
There's a flat-roofed home that stands at the crest of a hill at 14th and Quaker, just east of Peoria Avenue. It's easy to spot as you pass by on the Broken Arrow Expressway heading into downtown. It sits in a narrow residential sliver between the expressway and the Cherry Street commercial district. With its strong horizontal lines, angular porch arches, and a smaller, flat-roofed second floor, it stands out from the craftsman bungalows that used to be typical of the area and the pricey modern condos that are replacing those bungalows.
Despite the similarity of the housing stock between the neighborhoods north and south of Cherry Street, the neighborhood to the north has never enjoyed historic preservation zoning protection. The distinctive home had fallen into disrepair, but I had noticed a few months ago on a walk through the neighborhood that someone was working on it.
Preservation Nation has an item today about the McGregor House, designed by Bruce Goff, and the Tulsan who undertook its restoration:
Mark Sanders had been driving by and looking at the McGregor House in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for more than 20 years. Something about the lines, he says, always appealed to him. He'd also heard rumblings that Bruce Goff -- known for being the mastermind behind some of Tulsa's most noteworthy buildings, including the Boston Avenue Methodist Church -- may have designed the home, but nobody ever had solid confirmation. So Sanders continued to drive by admiring the home's design.
But all that changed in 2013, when a For Sale By Owner sign was placed in the front yard of the home.
Sanders, who is a lawyer, decided to purchase the structure and restore it using historic tax credits.
An architect who knew Bruce Goff was able to confirm that Goff had designed it in 1919 or 1920, when he was still an intern at an architectural firm. Because of the connection to Goff, the home's local significance, and its importance to his early career, the home was accepted for the National Register of Historic Places, which in turn made it eligible for federal historic preservation tax credits, which can offset 20% of the cost of the restoration of a building's structure and mechanical systems.
It's great to know that you don't have to be a developer or an architect to restore a historic property. I'm sure it must have been a long and involved process, with setbacks and discouragements mixed in with the progress. I'd love to hear more of the story.
Conservatives want Congress to use its "power of the purse," by adding language to pending appropriations bills that would forbid the use of Federal funds to carry out President Obama's executive amnesty program. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed that even fee-funded agencies derive their authorization to spend those fees from Congressional appropriations, and Congress can restrict the use to which that money is put. That might include, for example,
The House leadership's proposal, which is supported by the Democrat leadership in the Senate, would fund all departments except Homeland Security until the end of Fiscal Year 2015; Homeland Security would be funded only until the end of March. December 11 is when the current continuing resolution expires; a new CR has to be approved by Congress and signed by the President in order for Federal agencies to have the authority to continue to spend money on non-essential functions.
RedState's Erick Erickson smells a rat and believes that the result of this proposal will be merely symbolic. Many believe that House Republican leadership is only half-heartedly opposed to President Obama's executive amnesty and would be quietly pleased with a futile protest vote and no effective roadblock to Obama's plan. He wants this bill stopped before it gets to the floor of the House, and he gave his readers a list of congressmen to call, to urge them to oppose the rule, which would effectively kill the bill. On the list was our own Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine.
I emailed Rep. Bridenstine's office Thursday to ask where he stands on this idea. Bridenstine's Communications Director Sheryl Kaufman replied Friday morning:
Yes, we have been getting a lot of calls. Erick's suggested strategy is unlikely to succeed. Very few Congressmen oppose the rule generally because it simply allows the underlying bill to be debated on the floor.
The real work is happening right now as Members let Leadership know that they won't support a CR or Omnibus or CROmnibus that does not include provisions blocking the funding of the President's unconstitutional, illegal executive amnesty. People should be calling their Congressmen to encourage them to demand that provision in any funding bill. If Leadership knows they face a lot of pressure, they may introduce an acceptable bill and opposing the rule will be a moot point. Of course, Congressman Bridenstine has made his position very clear and is encouraging others to do likewise.
BTW, it is always most effective for people to call their own Representative. Some Congressional offices don't even take calls from people outside their District. Our office will speak to people and listen politely wherever they live, but we only log calls from people from our District.
On that last point, I agree that a congressman's primary responsibility is to his constituents, but a congressman's actions as a committee member, chairman, caucus officer, or Speaker have national impact, and in those roles he ought to listen to voices from all parts of the country.
It sneaks up on us every year -- the filing period for next spring's school board elections across Oklahoma. It's the first Monday in December and the two days following, at the start of the Christmas season as popularly defined. This year the timing of the filing period is the worst possible as it comes right on the heels of the long Thanksgiving weekend. The elections themselves will be the second Tuesday next February, followed by a runoff, if necessary, the first Tuesday in April. It's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.
The filing period for the 2015 school board elections will close on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. So far no seat in Tulsa County has drawn more than one candidate, and seats in Skiatook, Liberty, and Keystone have no candidates at all so far.
Conservatives shouldn't overlook these races. Oklahoma's tax-funded schools can and should be reformed to reflect the priorities and values of Oklahoma's conservative majority.
When public schools were founded by local communities, they were designed to prepare students to function capably as free and equal adult citizens in the community and to assist the parents of the community in propagating their ideals and values to the next generation. Schools had high expectations of their students, regardless of their wealth or ethnic backgrounds, and students graduated ready to make their own way in the world and contribute to the betterment of the community.
As part of the Left's Gramscian Long March through the nation's institutions, the Left has come to claim public schools as its own mission stations among the benighted and savage conservatives of Flyover Country. Since, in the Left's view, the American civilization established by our Founders is utterly corrupt and in need of fundamental transformation, the political, social, and moral values that built American civilization and American liberty must be junked. The schools can be used to alienate children from their parents and their community's values and to prepare children to accept the Left's political and moral indoctrination. Court decisions divorcing schools from community values have abetted the transformation, as have the public's neglect of the school board as a tool for accountability. Too often, a school board can see itself as enablers and servants of the "professionals" in the administration, rather than as the public's proxy as bosses of the paid staff.
There are many good teachers, administrators, and board members in the public schools who are not on the side of the Left. They are attempting to carry on the traditional purpose of the public schools. They deserve our appreciation and our help in obtaining reinforcements.
Gifted teachers are often frustrated by the bureaucratic tendency for the mediocre to rise to the top. Testing, often imposed out of a well-intentioned desire to hold schools accountable for results, instead inhibits creativity and pushes curriculum toward centralized conformity -- providing another channel for Leftist suppression of local values.
Adding to the corrupt mess, curriculum decisions are driven by textbook publishers and test makers who are pushing new products, trying to make a buck at the expense of school children who would benefit from time-tested teaching methods instead of the latest fad.
Grants are another source of distortion. Grant money comes with strings, and schools may divert other funds to meet the conditions required to receive a grant. Our Oklahoma legislators and governor had the courage to reject a short-term boost of Obamacare funds because of the long-term harm the program would do and the long-term costs the deal would incur. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had public school boards filled with men and women who had the courage to reject federal, state, or private grants that would distract from the school's mission or compromise the school's support for the community's values?
Every school district in Oklahoma has at least one seat up for election every year. All but the very largest independent districts are on a five-year cycle -- five board members, each serving a five-year term. This time the Office 5 seat is up for election. In Tulsa County, that affects every school district except Tulsa and Keystone.
Dependent (K-8) districts have three members each serving a three-year term; Office 1 is up this year.
The Tulsa district is a special case; its board has seven members, elected by district to four-year terms. Most years, Tulsa elects two members, but this year only one seat is up: District 1, currently held by Democrat incumbent Gary Percefull, who is so far the only candidate to file. The election district covers the part of the Tulsa school district southwest of the Arkansas River, plus downtown Tulsa and precincts to the north, west, south, and southeast, and the precincts along the Sand Springs Line.
Some districts may also have an additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term.
One seat on the Tulsa Technology Center board, Zone 3, is also on the ballot. This board has seven members, serving rotating seven-year terms. Zone 3 consists of 31st to 81st Street, Yale to 129th East Ave, plus 81st to 101st, Memorial to 129th East Ave, plus 31st to 41st, 129th to 145th East Ave, plus a triangular area bounded by 129th, 71st, and the railroad. Tim Bradley is the incumbent, but only one candidate, Guy Mark Griffin, has filed. (Mark your calendar: Kathy Taylor's daughter, the Zone 4 incumbent, will be up for re-election in the 2015-2016 cycle.)
Tulsa Technology Center has been in a massive expansion mode for many years. Since 2011, TTC has opened new campuses in Owasso and Sand Springs and renovated its Broken Arrow campus. It would be nice if at least one board member was willing to look at long-range financial sustainability of all the new facilities and whether TTC could let the voters decide to reduce its millage rate, allowing voters to decide whether to add that millage to meet more pressing needs via another taxing entity or to put it back in property taxpayers' pockets.
Please take a few minutes to look at the maps of school districts and board zones and the list of offices to be filled and candidate filings to see whether your district, ward, or zone has an election this year. If you don't live in a district up for election, think about good men and women you know who do. Take a look at the official school board candidate filing packet and fill it out, then get yourself or someone else down to the county election board by 5:00 p.m.
These are winnable races. School elections have low turnout, and, although the races are non-partisan, the Oklahoma Republican Party and county GOP organizations make their resources available and help mobilize volunteers and donors for registered Republicans running for school and municipal offices. Some good organization and hard work could be enough to win, but the first step is to file.
Yesterday was the 225th anniversary of the America's first national day of Thanksgiving, as proclaimed by President Washington at the behest of Congress. The heart of this particular observance was thankfulness to God for "an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." Washington called on Americans to beseech God "to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed." Even then, in the very first year under the new Constitution, the possibility of laws exceeding the limits set by the Constitution was on the minds of America's leaders. At the same time, our founders understood that the institutional separation of church and state does not require the alienation of faith and government.
This text is from the Heritage Foundation, which has a good introduction to the proclamation.
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and--Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
The president sent the proclamation to the governors of the several states: "I do myself the honor to enclose to your Excellency a Proclamation for a general Thanksgiving which I must request the favor of you to have published and made known in your State in the way and manner that shall be most agreeable to yourself."
The congressional resolution requesting President Washington's Thanksgiving proclamation was not without controversy. Congressman Thomas Tudor Tucker thought that it was too soon to give thanks for the new Constitution: "They may not be inclined to return thanks for a Constitution until they have experienced that it promotes their safety and happiness. We do not yet know but they may have reason to be dissatisfied with the effects it has already produced; but whether this be so or not, it is a business with which Congress have nothing to do; it is a religious matter, and, as such, is proscribed to us. If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the several States." Note the assumption that a state government might take up a religious matter.
The UVa article on the proclamation goes on to say:
Whatever reservations may have been held by some public officials, the day was widely celebrated throughout the nation. The Virginia assembly, for example, resolved on 19 November that the chaplain "to this House, be accordingly requested to perform divine service, and to preach a sermon in the Capitol, before the General Assembly, suitable to the importance and solemnity of the occasion, on the said 26th day of November." Most newspapers printed the proclamation and announced plans for public functions in honor of the day. Many churches celebrated the occasions by soliciting donations for the poor.
Washington himself gave $25 to the pastor of two Presbyterian churches "to be applied towards relieving the poor of the Presbyterian Churches."
My alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is not known as an athletic powerhouse, but MIT does offer a surprisingly large number of varsity intercollegiate teams (at times it's had more varsity teams than any other college and the school has national championships in sailing and pistol). The 'tute has intramural leagues in everything from soccer to Quidditch which involve most of the student body, with teams fielded by fraternities, labs, and dorm floors.
When I was in school, one varsity team we lacked was football. Untethered from loyalty to our own school, MIT undergrads continued to root for their home-state teams. We certainly never imagined a day when MIT would have a better football season than the Sooners.
A few years before my arrival, students organized a club team, which existed with minimal Institute support. More attention was paid to the hacks MIT students perpetrated at other colleges' football games. The Wall Street Journal recently featured the humble origins of the MIT football team and the marching band.
Now, not only does MIT have a varsity football team (since 1988), it's undefeated and in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
This Saturday the MIT Engineers will face the Wesley College Wolverines at Wesley's home field in Dover, Delaware.
This calls for the MIT cheer:
e to the u, du dx, e to the x, dx;
cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159;
integral, radical, u dv;
slipstick, sliderule, MIT!
The alma mater, performed by alumni of the male a capella ensemble, the Logarhythms:
And the drinking song, performed by the mixed voice a capella ensemble, the Chorallaries:
Law professor Josh Blackman has done a detailed analysis of the legal advice given to President Obama regarding his executive order effectively granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. The White House's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) drew some very fine distinctions that have escaped the attention of the popular press.
The gist of it is this: No, a president can't simply decide not to enforce a law on the books. Prosecutorial discretion has to be exercised on a case-by-case basis. The administration may adopt guidelines that prosecutors should consider when deciding whether or not to prosecute, but a policy that precludes automatic application to an entire class. Some relevant quotes from the OLC memo:
We advised that it was critical that, like past policies that made deferred action available to certain classes of aliens, the DACA program require immigration officials to evaluate each application for deferred action on a case-by-case basis, rather than granting deferred action automatically to all applicants who satisfied the threshold eligibility criteria....
Finally, lower courts, following Chaney, have indicated that non-enforcement decisions are most comfortably characterized as judicially unreviewable exercises of enforcement discretion when they are made on a case-by-case basis.... Individual enforcement decisions made on the basis of case-specific factors are also unlikely to constitute "general polic[ies] that [are] so extreme as to amount to an abdication of [the agency's] statutory responsibilities." Id. at 677 (quoting Chaney, 477 U.S. at 833 n.4). That does not mean that all "general policies" respecting non-enforcement are categorically forbidden: Some "general policies" may, for example, merely provide a framework for making individualized, discretionary assessments about whether to initiate enforcement actions in particular cases. Cf. Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 313 (1993) (explaining that an agency's use of "reasonable presumptions and generic rules" is not incompatible with a requirement to make individualized determinations). But a general policy of non-enforcement that forecloses the exercise of case-by-case discretion poses "special risks" that the agency has exceeded the bounds of its enforcement discretion. Crowley Caribbean Transp., 37 F.3d at 677....
Further, although the proposed policy is not a "single-shot non-enforcement decision," neither does it amount to an abdication of DHS's statutory responsibilities, or constitute a legislative rule overriding the commands of the substantive statute. Crowley Caribbean Transp., 37 F.3d at 676-77. The proposed policy provides a general framework for exercising enforcement discretion in individual cases, rather than establishing an absolute, inflexible policy of not enforcing the immigration laws in certain categories of cases.
In another entry, Blackman imagines President Rick Perry issuing an executive order to "to defer all prosecutions for any tax payer that pays at least 17% of their flat tax, even if the old brackets suggest they owe more" among other discretionary steps.
MORE: This week's "cold open" on Saturday Night Live featured a new Schoolhouse Rock video: Who needs a bill when you can issue an executive order?
Last last week, NRO's Charles C. W. Cooke traced the transformation of Barack Obama from the 2008 senator who wanted to rein in the executive branch to the 2014 president who has gone well beyond the actions which he had condemned in his predecessor's administration:
Noting in 2008 that he "taught constitutional law for ten years," and in consequence took "the Constitution very seriously," Obama determined that "the biggest problems that we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all." "That," the candidate assured his audience, is "what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States of America."...
And yet, just one short year after he had told students that he was hamstrung by the rules, the president did precisely what he said he could not, refusing to "enforce and implement" those "very clear" laws and abdicating disgracefully his "appropriate role as president." Obama called this maneuver "DACA," although one imagines that James Madison would have come up with a somewhat less polite term.
Evidently, the new approach suited the president. Soon thereafter, he began to make extra-legislative changes to Obamacare, without offering any earnest legal justifications whatsoever; he responded to Congress's refusal to raise the minimum wage by rewriting the Service Contract Act of 1965; and, as a matter of routine, he took to threatening, cajoling, and mocking Congress, and to informing the country's lawmakers that by declining to consent to his will they were refusing to do "their jobs." In Obama's post-2011 world, it seems, legislators are not free agents but parliamentary subordinates possessed of two choices: either they do what he wants, or they watch him do what he wants. Refusing assent seems to be regarded as an entirely illegitimate option. This, it should be perfectly obvious, is the attitude not of the statesman, but of the mugger. "Give me your wallet," the ruffian says, "or I will take it by force." That progressives who once championed the man for his calm and his virtue have taken to twisting themselves into knots in his defense should tell us all we need to know about their broader sincerity -- and his.
In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), which provided a general amnesty to almost three million illegal immigrants. According to the Associated Press, Reagan acted unilaterally when his Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner "announced that minor children of parents granted amnesty by [IRCA] would get protection from deportation." In fact, in 1987 former Attorney General Ed Meese issued a memorandum allowing the INS to defer deportation where "compelling or humanitarian factors existed" for children of illegal immigrants who had been granted amnesty and, in essence, given green cards and put on a path towards being "naturalized" as citizens. In announcing this policy, Reagan was not defying Congress, but rather carrying out the general intent of Congress which had just passed a blanket amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants....
The Bush administration relaxed these technical requirements under a "Family Fairness" policy to defer deportation of the spouses and children of illegal immigrants who were allowed to stay in this country and seek naturalization through the IRCA amnesty. Shortly thereafter, Bush worked with Congress to pass the Immigration Act of 1990, which made these protections permanent. Significantly, the Bush policy and the 1990 Act affected only a small number of immigrants-about 180,000 people-in comparison to Obama's past (his 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program) and anticipated unilateral actions that will affect millions of immigrants.
Congressman Raul Labrador said on MSNBC that House Republicans and Democrats were close to a bipartisan deal on immigration, but the White House put a stick in the spokes:
"[The House bill] was something that would be acceptable to the House, would include all of the areas of immigration we needed to do. It was going to include border security, interior security, and the more the White House heard about what the House was doing, the more they interfered. His chief of staff, the president's chief of staff at the time, decided to call House Democrats and tell them that they needed to stop negotiating with House Republicans because they wanted the only vehicle for immigration reform, they want it to be the Senate bill. The president is in essence telling the American people it is only the Senate bill that is the only vehicle for immigration reform and that nothing else is acceptable."
BBC photo. Tony Hancock and Kevin McNally, who plays Hancock in the recreated episodes.
On November 2, 1954, the BBC radio sitcom "Hancock's Half Hour" made its debut. Starring comedian Tony Hancock and written by Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, the show quickly became appointment radio across the UK. The Galton and Simpson team went on to write "Steptoe and Son," a TV series about a junk man and his restless son, on which the US series "Sanford and Son" was based.
Of the 102 episodes broadcast over six series, only 77 or so survive, with many missing from the first three series. Recently a cache of scripts has been discovered, including a number of the missing episodes. Earlier this year, BBC Radio 4 recorded five of the scripts, selected by Galton and Simpson, with a cast of comic actors recreating the voices of Hancock and company. The recreated "Missing Hancocks" are airing this month, once a week, in honor of the show's 60th anniversary.
Miranda Sawyer of the Grauniad loves the Missing Hancocks":
Anyway, the first of these new episodes - The Matador - aired this week. And my misgivings disappeared. I am very glad that these shows have been redone. I thought that the new actors might be off-putting, but Kevin McNally sounded astonishingly like Tony Hancock, as did Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams. Simon Greenall, who plays Sid James, was a teeny bit out; but only a teeny bit, not enough to stop you listening. Anyhow, the real delight was the script. Written by Galton and Simpson, both now in their 80s, it was a proper winner. Great one-liners, fantastic flights of fancy, a consistency of character that led to joke upon joke (I loved Hancock, shoved into a Spanish bullfight by a series of Sid James's set-ups, only being annoyed with the bull for spoiling his gags: "That animal completely ruined my set.").
Comedy geeks have long had it that the Hancock shows are the first ever sitcoms. Before Hancock, comedy programmes consisted of sketches punctuated by other variety acts. Hancock's Half Hour, with its regular, and regularly frustrated, characters, became the blueprint for every sitcom that followed. From the evidence of this programme, that blueprint hasn't often been bettered.
Gillian Reynolds of the Telegraph calls it a failure:
The Missing Hancocks (Radio 4, Friday) is a valiant effort, remakes of five Hancock's Half Hour shows from the original Galton and Simpson scripts. No recordings of these shows are known to exist although they may one day, as many old programmes do, surface from someone's cellar. Meanwhile, Kevin McNally does his best to sound like Tony Hancock while Kevin Eldon stumbles over Bill Kerr's lines and Simon Greenall can't quite capture the spirit of Sid James. The closest to the original is Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams, but then all Williams's voices were character performances in the first place.
The laughs are still there in the lines and the studio audience responds to them, even to allusions to such ancient totems as Wilfred Pickles. I can't laugh. Hancock's Half Hour broke the mould of radio comedy by pretending to be naturalistic (in contrast to the contrived situations of Bandwagon, Up the Pole and ITMA), putting us beside Hancock and James and Kerr wherever they were. This doesn't. It is, as The Goon Show used to say, a cardboard replica.
My own opinion: The scripts are brilliant and worth bringing back from oblivion. Our family has listened to the first two and found them laugh-out-loud funny. McNally, Eldon, and Sebastian all do very well as Hancock, Kerr, and Williams, respectively; they all have the right cadence, timbre, and timing. Suzy Kane, who plays Andrée Melly in the first two "Missing" episodes, sounded more like Series 1 girlfriend Moira Lister at the beginning of the first episode, but by the end of the episode, she had more of Melly's French-tinged accent.
Simon Greenall doesn't get Sid James at all. Yes, Sid is part of the demimonde, but he rarely sounds like a gravelly-voiced hoodlum announcing his intention to mug you. Sid's a charmer. Someone with a musical ear would have noticed the melodic, sing-song quality of his voice, particularly when Sid is at his most oleaginous. "You don't want to worry about that." "Shhherrr-tainly!"
The new recordings are available for listening online for one month after the initial broadcast:
In addition to these re-recordings on Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra has a couple of special broadcasts available.
Steve Punt's Hancock Cuttings: This three-hour collection of audio and commentary includes the October 19, 1951 episode of "Educating Archie" (with a song by 16-year-old Julie Andrews, when her voice was still operatic); Tony Hancock's infamous "Face-to-Face" interview from 1960; "''Ancock's Anthology," a Christmas Day 1964 broadcast in which Tony introduces favorite music and reads humorous short fiction, a 1965 Pye Records rerecording of the Hancock's Half Hour TV episode "The Missing Page" (about Hancock's frustration that the last page of a murder mystery has been torn out of the book), and the first episode of the radio series, from November 2, 1954.
("Educating Archie," like the "Charlie McCarthy Show" in the US, starred a ventriloquist's dummy as a cheeky schoolboy. Tony Hancock was one of several comedians who did a stint as Archie's tutor and foil. Hancock's love interest was Hattie Jacques, who would play Hancock's harridan secretary Griselda Pugh in the fourth and fifth series of "Hancock's Half Hour.")
The New Elizabethans: Tony Hancock: One in a series of 10-minute profiles of "men and women whose actions during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on lives in these islands and/or given the age its character, for better or worse."
It's possible to play these streams in an external application like VideoLAN VLC (and even save them locally for offline listening), if you have the direct URL to the stream. The iPlayerConverter site will take an eight-character BBC program ID and generate the direct stream links. Because streams older than a week aren't findable via iPlayerConverter, here are direct links to streams of the programs mentioned above, which you can use in applications like VLC:
- Steve Punt's Hancock Cuttings. Available until December 1, 2014.
- Missing Hancocks: Episode 1: The Matador. Available until December 1, 2014.
- Missing Hancocks: Episode 2: The Newspaper. Available until December 8, 2014.
- Missing Hancocks: Episode 3: The Hancock Festival. Available until December 15, 2014.
- Missing Hancocks: Episode 1 with Director's Commentary. Available until December 1, 2014.
- New Elizabethans: Tony Hancock
Jonathan Gruber is the MIT economics professor, often called the "architect of Obamacare," who has said publicly that Obamacare's passage owed much to the "stupidity of the American people" and that its authors necessarily obfuscated the impacts on taxpayers in order to get the bill passed.
"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," Gruber said. "Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass."
Gruber added that he wished "we could make it all transparent," but said the bill would not have passed if not for the administration's art of deception on key features of the law.
"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes," Gruber said. "If you had a law that made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed."
The University of Pennsylvania deleted the video but restored it after public outcry. Three additional videos have surfaced of Gruber making the same argument in different appearances.
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean expressed outrage at Gruber's comments:
"The problem is not that he said it-the problem is that he thinks it," Dean said. "The core problem under the damn law is it was put together by a bunch of elitists who don't fundamentally understand the American people. That's what the problem is."
You may recall that Gruber was cited earlier this year as stating on at least seven occasions that Obamacare subsidies were intended as an incentive for states to set up their own Obamacare exchanges. If a state refused to set up their own exchanges, the subsidies would be denied to the citizens of that state, who would, Gruber hoped, pressure their state politicians to establish a state exchange. Now Gruber calls that provision of the law a "typo," but it is the central issue in Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's challenge to the Obamacare law.
House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker when the bill passed, is now claiming never to have heard of Gruber. But Hot Air has a screen grab from Pelosi's website and a video clip showing that Nancy Pelosi cited Jon Gruber as an authority in arguing for Obamacare's passage.
Here's Pelosi on November 5, 2009, citing Gruber's analysis of the Democrats' Obamacare bill.
Gruber is also described as the architect of Romneycare, the Massachusetts socialized medicine program on which Obamacare is based. Mitt Romney should have been smart enough to know that if you want a reform grounded in economic reality, you go to the University of Chicago or George Mason U. You don't go to the statists and socialists that define the economic department at my alma mater.
Keith Hennessey writes that Obamacare is far from the only government program that has been enacted by hiding subsidies and costs. Hennessey has a long list that only scratches the surface. Hennessey writes:
Apparently Dr. Gruber thinks it's OK to lie to American voters when his allies are in power to enact policies that he wants but the voters wouldn't. He then says American voters are "stupid" both for not agreeing with his value choices and for not figuring out the deception.
When you strip away all the complexity, economic policy is ultimately an expression of elected officials making difficult value choices. If over time these officials make value choices that do not reflect the values of the people whom they represent, they can, should, and will be replaced.
When these same elected officials, and those who advise them, deliberately construct policies to hide value choices that would be unpopular were they transparent and explicit, we end up with two terrible outcomes. We get policies that do not reflect our values, and we re-elect representatives who are lying to us.
The National Journal's Ron Fournier, who emphatically identifies himself as "not 'on the right,'" objects to efforts to spin the story as one in which only conservatives are outraged:
[Gruber] called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us--Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.
Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration's dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public's faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives....
Last year, The Post helped document how Obama and his advisers knowingly misled the public during his 2012 reelection campaign by repeatedly saying that, under Obamacare, people could keep their doctors and keep their health plans. To knowingly mislead is to lie.
"It's hard to know what might have happened if the truth had won the day," writes Post columnist Kathleen Parker. "But we do know that truth squandered is trust lost."
And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you're willing to accept a political system that colors its lies--the reds, the whites, and the blues.
STILL MORE: In a June 2012 interview with PBS Frontline, Gruber tells us that the decision to mislead on employer-provided medical insurance went all the way to the top.
Here's what Gruber says in the video:
Now, the problem is, it's a political nightmare, ... and people say, "No, you can't tax my benefits." So what we did a lot in that room was talk about, well, how could we make this work? And Obama was like, "Well, you know" -- I mean, he is really a realistic guy. He is like, "Look, I can't just do this." He said: "It is just not going to happen politically. The bill will not pass. How do we manage to get there through phases and other things?" And we talked about it. And he was just very interested in that topic.
That ultimately became the genesis of what's called the "Cadillac tax" in the healthcare bill which I think is one of the most important and bravest parts of the health care law and, um, doesn't get nearly enough credit.
In that same PBS Frontline episode, Gruber explains the three key elements that made Romneycare in Massachusetts "work": A relatively low number of uninsured, an insurance market "destroyed" (Gruber's word) by a previously-adopted requirement to ignore pre-existing conditions, and most of all, $400 million a year in Other People's Money:
Third, we had a major source of financing in place, which we had formerly had a pretty powerful senator named Ted Kennedy who had been delivering about $400 million a year in slush funds to our safety-net hospitals that the Bush administration was threatening to take away.
The Romney administration, to their credit, went to Washington and said, "Can we keep this money if we use it to cover the uninsured?" And the Bush administration, to their credit, said yes.
So those pieces pulled together made a really interesting opportunity to actually cover the uninsured and fix a broken, non-group market on the federal dime. And that was a really unique opportunity, which I think Romney as a kind of management consultant was excited to take advantage of.
Long-time Boston Herald political columnist Howie Carr says that Gruber (MIT '87, Harvard Ph.D. '92) is just another goober from Cambridge.
Do you realize that every last one of the many disasters that has befallen this nation in the last half-century can be traced right back here to the banks of the Charles River?
C'mon down, Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at MIT. He's the moonbat who, after engineering the ongoing fiasco that is Obamacare, then took a nationwide victory lap in which he repeatedly described the American people as "too stupid" to realize the Democrats were destroying their health care.
Maybe he's right about our stupidity. After all, he cashed in $392,000 worth of federal no-bid contracts to wreck the best health care system in the world, plus another $1.6 million or so in various state wrecking-ball contracts.
This goober, I mean Gruber, now says that when he sneered about how stupid Americans are, he made a mistake. Oddly, he made the same "mistake" five times (and counting). When you say something publicly five times, it's part of your stump speech.
Nice Deb is compiling all the Gruber videos and links to stories and transcripts.
The Conservative Voices blog is self-hosting the Gruber videos, just in case they get taken down on other sites. The Gruber category has entries with individual videos as well. (Gruber's speech to the University of Rhode Island Fall 2012 Honors Colloqium has been deleted from URI's YouTube account, for example, even though they had submitted it to amara.org to crowdsource the transcription of the video.)
NRO's Rich Lowry wants to thank Jonathan Gruber:
He has done us all a favor by affording us an unvarnished look into the progressive mind, which values complexity over simplicity, favors indirect taxes and impositions on the American public so their costs can be hidden, and has a dim view of the average American.
Complexity is a staple of liberal policymaking. It is a product of its scale and reach, but also of the imperative to hide the ball. Taxing and spending and redistributive schemes tend to be unpopular, so clever ways have to be found to deny that they are happening. This is what Gruber was getting at. One reason Obamacare was so convoluted is that its supporters didn't want to straightforwardly admit how much the law was raising taxes and using the young and healthy to subsidize everyone else.
Gruber crowed about the exertions undertaken to make an unpopular tax on expensive health-insurance plans, the so-called Cadillac tax, more palatable. It was levied on employers instead of employees. No one realized, Gruber explained, that the tax would be functionally the same even if not directly imposed on workers. This wasn't a one-off deception. This kind of sleight of hand is crucial to the progressive project, which always involves imposing taxes, regulations, and mandates at one remove from the average person so he or she won't realize that the costs are passed down regardless.
Most liberals would never come out and call Americans stupid in a public forum, as Gruber did. But the debate between conservatives and liberals on health-care policy and much else comes down to how much average Americans can be trusted to make decisions on their own without the guiding, correcting hand of government. An assumption that Americans are incompetent is woven into the Left's worldview. It is reluctant to entrust individuals with free choice for fear they will exercise it poorly and irresponsibly.